Kendrick Sampson, Tessa Thompson & 300 Black Artists Call on Hollywood to Divest From Police

Developed alongside Black Lives Matter co-founders Patrisse Cullors and Melina Abdullah, the letter also demands that Hollywood divest from anti-Black content
By Allison Crist Jun 23, 2020 10:27 PMTags
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More than 300 Black artists and studio executives—including Michael B. Jordan, Viola Davis, Queen Latifah, Idris Elba and Mahershala Ali—have signed an open letter calling on Hollywood to divest from police and anti-Black content.

The letter was penned by Insecure and Miss Juneteenth star Kendrick Sampson and developed alongside Tessa Thompson and Black Lives Matter co-founders Patrisse Cullors and Melina Abdullah. According to Variety, Sampson was moved to take action after being shot by rubber bullets and hit with a police baton at a peaceful protest he organized in Los Angeles. 

"Hollywood has a privilege as a creative industry to imagine and create," the open letter begins. "We have significant influence over culture and politics. We have the ability to use our influence to imagine and create a better world. Yet, historically and currently, Hollywood encourages the epidemic of police violence and culture of anti-Blackness."

Both Hollywood and mainstream media, according to the letter "have contributed to the criminalization of Black people, the misrepresentation of the legal system, and the glorification of police corruption and violence," resulting in "dire consequences on Black lives."

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"This includes stories that demonize our mental health as violent," the message continues. "These stories contribute to the killings of Black people like Deborah Danner, who was murdered by NYPD Sgt. Hugh Barry. It also includes the perpetuation of transphobic stories which are used to justify the murder of Tony McDade in Florida, Nina Pop in Missouri, Dominique Fells in Philadelphia, and Riah Milton in Ohio. We must end the exaltation of officers and agents that are brutal and act outside of the law as heroes. These portrayals encourage cops like Derek Chauvin, the murderer of George Floyd."

The letter goes on to detail what's described as "Hollywood's legacy of white supremacy," which is "cultural and systemic." The "lack of a true commitment to inclusion and institutional support," can be seen in agencies, unions, studios and production companies, according to the letter. 

"Even with the recent successes of Black-led and produced films and television, myths of limited international sales and lack of universality of Black-led stories are used to reduce our content to smaller budgets and inadequate marketing campaigns," it states. "White people make up the smallest racial demographic globally, yet their stories are seen as internationally universal. When we do get the rare chance to tell our stories, our development, production, distribution, and marketing processes are often marred, filtered, and manipulated by the white gaze."

And due to "Hollywood's immense influence over politics and culture, all of the racism, discrimination and glass ceilings Black people in Hollywood experience on a regular basis have direct implications on Black lives everywhere," the letter says.

It continues, "We demand better. Prove that Black Lives Matter to Hollywood by taking bold moves to affirm, defend and invest in Black lives. Follow the examples of the Minneapolis School District, Denver Public Schools, the University of Minnesota and many other institutions in divesting from the policing system and investing in the Black community."

More specifically, the open letter demands that Hollywood "divest from police, divest from anti-Black content, invest in our careers, invest in anti-racist content and invest in our community."

"We know these changes have the power to change Black lives in America," the letter reads. "It is time for Hollywood to acknowledge its role and take on the responsibility of repairing the damage and being a proactive part of the change."

Read the entire letter here, and see the full list of demands on BLDPWR.com.